Vale Gavin (Uncle Bill) Green

My Uncle Bill passed away earlier this week. His funeral is today and he is to be buried in the quaint little town of Wanganui, in the north island of New Zealand. My parents have flown across the ditch to say goodbye. I wish I could have too.

My father’s brother was a lovely gentleman. Softly spoken but with a wicked sense of humour. He emigrated to New Zealand many years ago where he married my Aunty June, a tall beautiful Englishwoman, and settled down to raise his family. As a consequence we saw very little of our ‘kiwi’ cousins, but our infrequent get-togethers were indeed memorable.

During one trip to Australia Uncle Bill was discussing funny town names and the indigenous meanings behind them. Whilst Wetwang, Crapstone and Penistone in the UK got honourable mentions, and Middlefart in Denmark had us chortling, it was his earnest assertion that the Maori village of Whykickamoocow (pronounced why kick a moo cow) did exist, that had everyone in stitches. I looked for it last night on Google Maps. Its not real.

Uncle Bill and Aunty June always exuded a feeling of warmth and hospitality. I remember a Contiki tour I did in NZ when I was twenty years young. I had a free night in Wellington and I figured I would invite myself over for a home-cooked meal. I spent a little over an hour flicking through the local phone book for a Mr. B or Mr. W Green. After a couple of phone calls to prospective relatives were met with stony silences and a dial tone, I gave up and went out for a pizza. It was only when I got back to Australia that I found out his real name was Gavin. Dad still hasn’t explained where the name ‘Bill’ came from. My uncle and I  shared a huge laugh about when I told him the story a couple of years later at the family reunion in Mumbil – a tiny town out near Dubbo in New South Wales where my Uncle Doug had a hobby farm. Then he cooked one of the best curries I have ever eaten.

I may not have had a lot of contact with Uncle Bill in my life, purely because of the tyranny of distance, but he was a gentle soul and will be sorely missed.

Booralee

Booralee

The early morning dew twinkled from the orb weaver’s web like a thousand tiny rhinestones in a disco cowboy’s jacket. The remnants of last night’s meal hung lazily by a single sticky strand, the mummified remains no longer resembling a fat and juicy moth. With grey clouds threatening to disgorge their voluminous contents the ants scurried about in a frantic attempt to dissect their breakfast, a long brown earthworm that was too early for the birds.

The gentle precipitation that sprinkled softly onto the grass failed to dampen the Magpies spirits as the monochrome marauders perched low in the tree, daring each other to steal a sausage from the sizzling grill. Brightly coloured Rosellas argued with the Rainbow Lorikeets for a space on the dry branches and the old mother possum discreetly moved her babies to a safer place in the hollow trunk.

Pig flesh popped and spattered while the blunt butter knife scratched it’s wad of low-fat yellow chemicals over freshly toasted bread and the noise of human chatter began to drown out the gentle sounds of nature. Children, in jumpers as garish as any parrots plumage, gathered in giggling groups as the lone adult fruitlessly explained once again the importance of protecting the little leather ball.

The ants hid deep in their hole.

Load, colourful humans continued to invade the solace. One by one their large metallic pets arranged themselves in symmetry whilst simultaneously belching forth a poisonous stench that overwhelmed the aroma from the greasy hotplate. The magpies gargled in derision at the offensive mammals as the cacophony of verbal pleasantries and mobile ring tones silenced the Lorikeet’s debate.

The baby possum coughed.

Pointed, leafless weapons of mass destruction tore at the spider’s home, dispersing the sparkling jewels and dislodging the Bogong’s coffin. Hairlike threads, for their weight as strong as steel, repelled the assault as best they could until a third of the arachnid’s masterpiece became adhered to the toddler’s hand. His mother led him away. Admonishing the little boy in a high pitched squawk, not for the carnage that was wrought upon the orb weaver’s home, but for the dog faeces squished into the grooves of his shoes.

Then, as the little pea splintered and exploded from the tin whistle, nature left Booralee.

For hours on end herds of multicoloured minions battled their way up and down the paddock. Sauce splattered, eggs shattered and the empty bottles of isotonic sports water choked the over crowded bins. Orange slices, lightly seasoned with grass clippings and sand, were consumed in vast quantities. Adults questioned the pea blower’s decisions as the clash of tiny bodies brought forth tears and cheers.

Mechanised noise from the soulless devices increased throughout the day. Water churned and spat from large silver drums and was mixed with the dust from ground brown beans. Translucent sarcophagi regurgitated a cooling mist as they displayed their gruesome contents of ground beef, reconstituted fowl and flavoured bovine excreta. But it was the digitised plastic receptacle that was kept busy the most. Constantly expelling its tongue to eat the paper and tin offered to it in exchange for the goodies stored in the human’s den.

Gradually the clatter began to subside.

Autumn leaves of yellow, red and orange danced in the breeze with the chocolate wrappers and empty chip packets. The round-footed flatulent beasts broke wind once more as they departed and, finally, the electronic commotion ceased.

With the sun dipping well below its zenith, nature began its migration back to Booralee. The ants had found a new prize in the discarded sausage skins and bacon fat. Their queen would feast tonight. Old mother possum had graciously accepted some sweet Valencia from a generous little girl with only a small nip and a slightly bloody finger as payment. The Lorikeets and Rosellas returned to their nests fat and happy from a banquet of nectar and the fruits of the nearby date palms; and the Magpies laughed at the flightless four-wheeled Falcon that was caked in seeded excrement. With the temperature dropping the orb weaver left his sanctuary under the paperbark and began repairing his web.

All was back to normal at Booralee, at least until tomorrow.